Climate in Coachella Valley

This page is all about climate and climate change in the Coachella Valley (Greater Palm Springs), California, USA.

1.0 Coachella Valley’s Climate Forecast

2.0 Coachella Valley’s Climate Impacts

3.0 City Leadership on Climate

4.0 Climate Solutions in the Coachella Valley

5.0 Coachella Climate People (Groups)

6.0 Climate at School in the Coachella Valley

7.0 Coachellan Politicians on Climate


1.0 Coachella Valley’s Climate Forecast

The usual weather (the climate) of the Coachella Valley has been changing over the past several decades, and the change has been accelerating – especially since the 1990s. Going forward, Coachellans can know here about their Valley’s trending climate situation.

1.1 How hot will it get in the Coachella Valley?

1.2 Coachella’s Past, Present & Future Climate

1.3 This is how Coachella’s climate is changing.

1.1 This is how hot it will get in the Coachella Valley

Highest Temp Projected: 124˚ is the highest temp projected thru this century for the Coachella Valley, starting in the 2040s. Occasional spikes up to 130˚ could happen in lower-lying areas.

Highest Temp Recorded: The Coachella Valley reached it’s record highest temp of 121˚ in Palm Springs (August 2019).

Warmest Year on Record: 2018 is Coachella Valley’s warmest year on record, so far. 2016 was the Valley’s second warmest.

In the 1980s, 90s and 2000s, 108˚ was downtown Palm Springs’ normal highest temp during August.

1.2 Coachella Valley’s Past, Present & Future Climate

1.2.1 What is Coachella’s climate changing from?

Coachella Valley’s climate is currently classified as “Hot Desert.” Hot Desert Climate has very hot (106˚+), dry summers, and mild, sometimes drizzly winters. The Valley is in severe drought much of the time. Researchers estimate that the greater Palm Springs area has had this Hot Desert climate for hundreds of thousands of years.

1.2.2 What is Coachella’s climate changing to?

Coachella Valley’s climate is trending toward a Hyper-Arid Torrid climate. Hyper-Arid Torrid is an early description of Greater Palm Springs’ (Coachella Valley’s) emerging new climate.

Coachellans will have to get by, mainly indoors, when August and September temps climb into the torrid 120˚s. As the decades pass, Coachellans will experience more and more wintertime high temps in the 90˚s and low 100˚s.

Rain-wise, at less than two inches of rain per year, Coachella’s climate will be hyper-arid and virtually rainless. Many consecutive years may pass without any rainfall. Many drought and heat-tolerant plant species will disappear, among them almost all the Joshua Trees in nearby Joshua Tree National Park.

1.3 This is how Coachella Valley’s climate is changing

1.3.1 Coachella Valley’s climate is trending toward much longer, much hotter Summertimes

The spring-summer-fall “heat season” in the Coachella Valley used to be two months long in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Now, that time is gradually lengthening so that by the 2070s, 80s and 90s the heat season (days with temps over 106˚) will linger on for up to five months. Atmospheric scientists are calling this expanding new heat season a “Super Summer.”

As time goes on, heatwaves will not be a fluke. Most Summers, people in the Coachella Valley will experience waves of heatwaves. Uncomfortably hot days will arrive earlier in the Springtime and persist further and further into the Fall. Late-Summer / early Fall heatwaves merge together for three months of 105˚+ heat.   ​

Source: Cal-Adapt (Geospatial Innovation Facility, University of California, Berkeley).  Method:  CalAdapt Data Visualization Tool for Projections of  Extreme Heat under High Emissions Scenario 8.5 (Business as Usual / Growing Pace), where emissions continue to rise strongly through 2050 and plateau around 2100).  Data: LOCA Downscaled Climate Projections (Scripps Institution of Oceanography), Gridded Historical Observed Meteorological and Hydrological Data (University of Colorado, Boulder).  

1.3.2 Extra-hot days in Coachella are happening more and more often

Extremely Hot days: More and more days of extreme heat are ahead for  the Coachella Valley, California.  People in the the Palm Springs metro area will experience much more time at temps between 113˚ and 130˚.

Extremely Hot Days: More and more days of extreme heat are ahead for the Coachella Valley.  People in the the Palm Springs metro area will experience much more time at temps between 113˚ and 130˚.

This graphic shows the frequency of extremely hot days (days with a temp above 113˚) in Coachella Valley over the coming decades. 113˚ used to be statistically rare (extreme) for the Coachella Valley.​ The Coachella Valley (especially at Palm Springs) is blocked by the massive San Jacinto mountains from the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean, over 100 miles away

The Valley neither benefits from the ocean’s cooling influence, nor even a rare,  steady rain. By the 2050s, under the Growing Pace / Business-as Usual carbon emissions scenario, Palm Springs’ number of days with temps over 113˚ will quintuple (multiply by five times) from those of the 1990s – from 5 days to 27 days – of roasty dry heat. ​

Source: Cal-Adapt (Geospatial Innovation Facility, University of California, Berkeley).  Method: CalAdapt Data Visualization Tool for Projections of  Extreme Heat under High Emissions Scenario 8.5 (Growing Pace / Business as Usual scenario) where Emissions continue to rise strongly through 2050 and plateau around 2100), and Low Emissions Scenario 4.5 (Quickly Reduced / Carbon Mitigation scenario) where emissions peak around 2040, then decline.)  Data: LOCA Downscaled Climate Projections (Scripps Institution of Oceanography), Gridded Historical Observed Meteorological and Hydrological Data (University of Colorado, Boulder). 

2.0 Climate Impacts on the Coachella Valley

The changing climate directly affects the Coachella Valley.  The way we make energy heats up the atmosphere and causes real consequences to our quality of life. 

2.1 Water Supply Woes

2.2 Excruciating Drought

2.3 Extreme Storms and Flooding

2.4 Wildfire

2.5 Coachella tourism could be threatened

2.6 Our Beloved Joshua Trees

2.1 Water Supply Woes

Photo: The Salton Sea currently supports the $13 billion agriculture industry in Coachella’s neighboring Imperial Valley. This is where the United States gets a big portion of it’s Wintertime vegetables. The future of the region’s huge annual crop of cauliflower and tomatoes is in jeopardy as the Salton Sea evaporates in the already hotter climate. More water from elsewhere will need to be piped to Coachella Valley residents. Problem is… elsewhere is drying up too.

The Salton Sea, Coachella Valley’s major water source, is drying up. The Sea is evaporating from higher heat. People and agriculture will need to get by on much less water. Without any natural inflow of water, the Salton Sea is fed mainly by agricultural runoff. Until the 2000s, agricultural effluent was all that was needed to maintain the lake’s water level …and quench the thirst of hundreds of thousands of Coachella Valley residents. 

The warmer local atmosphere stresses the limited water supply feeding the Sea, and evaporates existing lake water increasingly faster. The Salton Sea is already shrinking and local water experts are concerned about how they’ll deliver a reliable water supply for the quickly growing population of the Coachella Valley.  

2.2 Drought

Photo: At the edge of the Coachella Valley’s Cathedral City, the contrast between a drought-stricken desert and a landscaped subdivision is stark. 

The Coachella Valley is already prone to periods of bone-dry conditions. From 2011-2015, the region baked under one of the worst droughts in California history. Droughts here in the Coachella Valley will be featuring extremely high heat, much drier soils, no rain in the valley and little snowfall in the mountains. There is an 80% chance of a multi-decade drought in the Coachella Valley  during the 2060s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.

2.3 Extreme Storms and Flooding

Photo: In the grips of a multi-year, oven-like drought one day, and flash floods carrying away heavy vehicles the next.

It’s happening more often, and will be a common phenomenon in the coming decades. Hard-baked drought in the Coachella Valley will only be broken by fits of monster storms. Interestingly though, the amount of rain probably won’t change much. In general, California’s inland desert region, including Coachella Valley, will get:

•   more rain in the wintertime   

•   less rain in the summertime 

Whether or not this rain pattern adjustment nets more or less precipitation remains to be seen. What is certain is that more and more often, Coachella Valley’s climate will go through cycles of exceptionally severe drought followed abruptly by a quick parade of extreme rainstorms and inevitable flooding

2.4 Wildfire

Photo: People will experience more and more brush fires in Coachella Valley’s suburban desert, and forest fires in the surrounding mountains.

More wildfires around the Coachella Valley, then a big decrease. The area forests and brushland surrounding the Coachella Valley will have a larger number of wildfires and up to 75% more burned area by the 2040s, 50s, and 60s from warming and drying caused by the currently growing pace of carbon emissions. By the 2070s, 80s and 90s, the already burnt areas of previous fires and the still warming temps will reduce the overall amount of vegetation necessary to fuel wildfires. Much of what was burnable land will essentially be “desertified,” and not as prone to wildfire. 

2.5 Tourism

Photo: The Coachella Music Festival happens each year in MMM when temps are nice and balmy.

Tourism in the Coachella Valley is a $6.4 billion a year local economic engine. People from cold climates come to the area’s hot springs, resorts, and golf courses for the mild weather, but the weather is becoming less and less mild. The extreme heat season is lasting well into the Fall season, and will effectively delays Coachella tourism’s Fall business more and more over the coming years. 

2.6 Our beloved Joshua Trees are going away

See the Joshua Trees’ tough trunk, reaching branches, and weapons-grade spikes? You’d think this icon of the American high desert would be able to survive any desert climate, but sadly, no. 

Because of higher and higher temps and longer and longer droughts, Joshua Trees will be 80% extirpated by the 2070s and 99.7% extirpated by 2099 within most of the vast Joshua Tree National Park. Extirpated means they’ll become locally extinct. After millions of years as a species in the Coachella region, Joshua Trees are beginning to die out . They’ll be gone forever – because the local climate is getting hotter and drier.

Joshua Trees: Their presence feels amazing and cartoon-like. Joshua Trees are a form of life you think you might have seen in a Dr. Suess book. They’re a keystone species of the high desert above the Coachella Valley.

3.0 Coachella Valley cities are not in the lead when it comes to climate preparedness.

3.1 Coachella Valley gets a climate grade

3.2 Cities don’t plan for climate

3.2 A new climate plan in the eastern Valley

3.1 Coachella Valley gets a grade on its climate efforts.

Local governments are driving the local (thus global) movement to quickly replace carbon-fire energy with climate-neutral sources – sources that don’t heat the atmosphere. And local governments are starting to delivering local-scale public-works projects that city residents need to survive and thrive under challenging climate conditions.

LocalClimate.org annually gives the Coachella Valley a letter grade so people can check it’s progress on climate. “How far is my city driving its climate plans, policies, programs, and projects?” Coachella Valley’s’ D– grade evaluates its cities as a group. It measures progress on a continuum from no climate planning activity at all, to a well-executed policy/project mix that

1) prepares public infrastructure to adapt to the new climate.

2) switches City assets to carbon-neutral electricity.

3) makes it easy for businesses and residents to get clean electricity and electric vehicles.

3.2 Coachellan cities have outdated, never-used Climate Action Plans.

Back in 2009, the Coachella Council of Governments hired a consulting firm to help cities develop plans – and little has occurred since. The City of Palm Desert got a good start and approved a Climate Action Plan in 2010. Then, over the next 11 years, it did nothing to carry out its plan. The cities of Desert Hot Springs and La Quinta stopped planning when their city councils failed to approve early climate planning efforts.

The State of California requires towns and cities to have a current Climate Action Plan. A Climate Action Plan at minimum includes a Greenhouse Gas Inventory, and a plan for eliminating the City’s and other sectors’ carbon emissions. Standard practice in good planning calls for an ongoing, iterative planning process – monitored and improved via periodic progress reports.

There is reason for hope. One city amongst the nine, fast- growing Indio, has recently reactivated it’s climate planning process (2019).

3.3 A new, unifying climate plan to cover several localities

And there’s more reason for hope: Now in its early stages (January 2020), the Eastern Coachella Valley Climate Resilience Action Plan will combine several area planning documents into one master plan to help various sectors adapt to the changing local climate. The plan’s boundary area includes the City of Coachella and the unincorporated communities of Thermal, Mecca, North Shore and Oasis. The City of Coachella and the Coachella Valley Association of Governments  received a first-round grant of $170,000 from the California Strategic Growth Council. This money will help area officials to start the planning process.

4.0 Climate Solutions in the Coachella Valley

With the hundreds of huge wind turbines just outside of Palm Springs, you’d think Coachella Valley residents would have all their electricity needs met by clean energy. Actually, the electricity from the turbines feeds into the grid for overall use all over Southern California.

4.1 City of Palm Springs decarbonizes its convention center

4.2 A Palm Springs car dealership goes solar

4.1 Palm Springs is decarbonizing its convention center.

In 2018, the City of Palm Springs covered the roof of the Palm Springs Convention Center with solar panels. The system is providing the center with 59% of its electricity. By foregoing gas-generated electricity, each year the Convention Center keeps 900 tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere. Palm Springs is also solarizing it’s downtown parking structure, its city parks, a community center, an animal shelter, and a fire station.

5.0 Coachella Climate People

Local groups of people provide varied services and resources in the Valley’s stepped up efforts to reduce carbon emissions and and to adapt to the warming climate.

5.1 Friends of the Desert Mountains

5.2 Coachella Valley has no student climate groups

5.3 Climate Action Palm Springs

5.1 Friends of the Desert Mountains

Problem: As the local climate changes, many plant and animal species will find themselves trapped in the geographic location where they’ve evolved.  Habitat that is still viable may be out of reach because the trending climate is moving faster than a species can relocate, and vast swaths of human-developed land block these species’ movement.

Solution: The group Friends of the Desert Mountains is preserving a unique wildlife movement corridor between two mountain ranges at the west end of the Coachella Valley. The connection gives wildlife the ability to move away from their climate-damaged habitat to a places expected to have a more supportive climate.

5.2 There are currently no student climate groups in the Coachella Valley.

As of January 2020, Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley have no local affiliates of global climate action groups such as Climate Strike, the Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, or any homegrown student-led climate group. If the Coachella Valley had students actively engaged in climate advocacy, perhaps they could get local officials to move faster in developing local climate plans, policies and projects.

5.3 Climate Action Palm Springs is currently inactive.

Back in 2016, Palm Spring resident Ellen Lockert started a local climate action group. Climate Action Palm Springs formed around its advocacy of Palm Springs’ then-proposed (and ultimately failed) new solar ordinance. An online search in 2020 indicates no further activity from the group.

6.0 Climate at school in the Coachella Valley

Climate education in a city or region could include anything from University research programs, K-12 curriculum that includes climate science or climate issues, or even an interesting guest lecture on climate for local residents.

6.1 University of California, Riverside – Department of Environmental Sciences

6.1 UC Riverside offers Environmental Sciences in the Desert

University Of California at Riverside (along with its campus in Coachella Valley’s Palm Desert) offers a graduate degree in Environmental Sciences.  The course of study includes an Atmospheric Sciences focus (atmospheric chemistry and air quality, drivers of radiative forcing and global warming, remote sensing of the atmosphere, and atmosphere-ocean interactions). Much of the research being conducted addresses the societal impacts of air pollution and climate change.

Photo: Francesca Hopkins is the Coachella Valley’s nearby climate change expert. She’s an assistant professor of climate change and sustainability in UCR’s Department of Environmental Sciences. Her research studies and teaches about the earth’s carbon cycle. Hopkins is the lead author of the Inland Deserts section of California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, which is used here to describe Coachella Valley’s trending climate.

7.0 Coachella Valley politicians talk about climate and energy.

With local, state, and national elections always coming up, people in the Coachella Valley might want to know how their representatives stand on climate policy.

7.1 Chad Mays

7.2 Eduardo Garcia

7.1 Chad Mayes makes a big political sacrifice.

California State Legislator Chad Mayes (R – CA 42nd), is a politician who sticks to his principles. In 2017, under pressure from fellow Republicans, Mays stepped down as Republican leader of the California Assembly. The Republican assembly caucus was unhappy with Mayes because he had helped Democrats win an extension of California’s landmark cap-and-trade program. ” I’m ready to

Photo: Chad Mays, a moderate conservative from Yucca Valley, represents the Coachella Valley and surrounding areas in California’s State Assembly.

7.2 Eduardo Garcia cuts carbon emissions with his law.

California State Legislator Eduardo Garcia (R – CA 42nd) wrote Assembly Bill 398, which extended California’s Garcia is a native of the Coachella Valley. Assemblyman Garcia became Mayor of Coachella City at the tender age of 29. He has emerged as a key leader on climate action in the California legislature.

Photo: Eduardo Garcia, a Democrat from Coachella City represents the Coachella Valley and the surrounding desert region in California’s State Assembly.